Jason Heyward had a very strange, and somewhat disappointing 2013 season. Bad luck on balls in play (.163 on June 1, despite a healthy batted ball profile) and fluke injuries (apendectomy, jaw) partially ruined a season that could have been great. While none of this was really Jason’s fault, it’s hard to categorize his 2013 season as a “very good one”. Given his age, we are expecting Jason to make huge advances at the plate. However, we did see some good signs out of him last year, especially in the 2nd half.
His overall walk rate rose last season to near 11%, and his strike-out rate dropped to a below league average 16.6%. His baserunning wasn’t as good as it had been in the past, however, which is cause for a little concern; Jason attempted just 6 stolen bases last year (successful twice). However, by the year’s end, his wRC+ was a shade under what he posted in 2012. Given the way his season started, this is remarkable.
We should be extremely excited about Jason’s potential in 2014. Entering his age 25 season, he should be poised to get even better, as many others on this list did as well. His plate discipline is superb, and with his combination of power, speed, and contact, if finally healthy, can post a superb stat line. The Jason Heyward we saw at the plate in 2010 was special, but at age 25, he can be even better, and if that is to happen, the Braves have a great chance to win in 2014. The future leadoff hitter can do many special things for the team, and will be essential to the offense’s success.
The 3 main player projections systems are all extremely bullish on Heyward for the upcoming season; Steamer projects him for 5.1 wins, Oliver for 4.4 wins, and ZiPS for 3.4 . The slash lines for Steamer and Oliver can be found on his Fangraphs player page, and his ZiPS projections, here .
My personal expectations for Heyward- .275 batting average, with an OBP near .370. 20-25 homeruns, with near 30 doubles, and near 10 stolen bases all seem pretty attainable for a player of his caliber, entering his age 24-25 season, his fifth season overall.
To be honest, might be a little low given the performance Jason had in the 2nd half last season, but we should always temper our early expectations. Remember how we all had hopes of every outfielder posting a 30-30 season? In the end, not a single player reached the plateau, as our leading HR hitter had 27 home runs, and utility man Jordan Schafer lead the team in steals with 22.
As the old adage goes, the game isn’t played on paper, we will have to wait and see. However, we have every reason to believe that Jason can post a superb 2014 season.